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DFIR-02 : Journal Forensics

Using $LogFile and $UsnJrnl during digital investigations

NTFS Journaling (Transaction Logging)

Windows NTFS uses a journaling technique that records a sequence of file changes in the $LogFile. Windows does a good job at maintaining data consistency after critical failures that cause the system to shut down unexpectedly. Specifically, NTFS logs file transactions when:
  • Creating a file
  • Deleting a file
  • Extending a file
  • Truncating a file
  • Setting file information
  • Renaming a file
  • Change the security applied to a file
The previously analyzed $MFT file keeps a $LogFile Transaction entry at offset 08 to 15 and this is how MFT correlates with other metadata attributes in the NTFS file system.
$MFT $LogFile Transaction Entry
From a forensics' perspective these records are valuable when it comes to creating a timeline of transactions.

NTFS change tracking journals :


  • Tracks file and directories changed on the system via the USN (Update Sequence Number) journal.
  • Available in the root directory under $Extend folder.
  • Contains two ADS (alternate data stream) :
    • $Max : Where the meta data of change log is stored
    • $J : Where the actual change log records are stored.


  • Track changes to MFT metadata.
  • Available at the root directory.


In order to parse these journals here are some great free tools :


Here is a great video by @13cubed on how to parse and use these journals :